Updated: May 11, 2020
‘The birds are chirping as I sit at my little deck table. My brush strokes are steady this morning as I sit painting one of my new’ family’ members, another animal rock. My moments of impatience are unnecessary, after all, where else would I be, what else should I be doing, except maybe taking another dip in the lake to cool my warming skin as the heat of the midday approaches…’
One of the easiest and most wonderful ways to craft with your family, or to just be by yourself and craft, is to do rock painting at a vacation cabin (or out camping).
I have always, luckily, been blessed with the love of art, in many shapes and forms, as I have a very creative spirit. I loved all my art classes in school, enjoyed doing so many things at home, and have found many ways to express myself through being creative throughout my life, here at my little lake is no exception.
I think I was lucky to have two grandmothers that are extremely artistic; one, was a painter, the other, more of a multi-medium crafter. So, I feel I that I have been blessed, been gifted with snippets of their incredible talents. However, talent is not always necessary when it comes to crafting, you just have to want to be interested in it enough to try something, to create something, to lose yourself in the time spend making something. Whether it is good or not.... well, it is true you know, the old saying we have all heard at one point or another along our life’s journey,"beauty is in the eye of the beholder". If you like to be creative, or feel good just spending time to make or create something, then, that is all that matters, don’t you think?
‘I cannot believe my Grandmother asked be to come to her painting class! How exciting, I’ve never painted with ‘real’ paints before!’
As we drove together, my grandmother and I, to a local West Coast beach along a big stretch of ocean shoreline, I wondered if I could paint anything that someone might not laugh at. I watched as everyone gathered around to say ‘hello’ and then set up their paint easels, canvases, paints and brushes. I could not believe I was here, my ‘artist’ grandmother letting me come to her paint class!
In the end, I painted the ocean rocks that jutted out of the water. My grandmother said my rocks were, ‘very lifelike’ and that I had done a very good job, for my first painting. I was elated and proud!’
As a side note to this little memory share, I still have that painting to this day, and I am most likely older than my grandmother was that day she took me to the beach to do my first ‘real’ painting. I laugh today when I think that it is on rocks at a lake that I usually paint today, when my first ‘real’ attempt at painting was of rocks as a subject on canvas as they sat in an ocean. This is the painting here, and I still have it somewhere. I must have been in around 13 years old at the time....
Later, along my life’s journey I have painted with watercolors, (my only fully signed up local class given by a local, well-known artist when I was first married). Now I generally paint with simple acrylic paints on my rocks, and, occasionally on wood, fabric, or paper.
One day at my cabin I decided to do my first project, and all I needed was a simple rock. So out came an old food jar from the garbage, (washed, of course), a couple of cheap brushes and a single round rock. In the end, I enjoyed the fruits of my labor. And then my kids got into the act. I brought to the cabin little dollar store vials of water-based acrylic paints and more inexpensive brushes with different-sized bristles and all different shapes and textures. I brought a couple used, but clean, silver pie plates to pour my paints on. I tore open used cereal boxes to spread out over the table to protect the surface. Then I pulled books from the cabin book shelves for help, direction and inspiration. My cabin library, thanks to my father, was full of pictures of plants, fish, flowers and animals. Although I had done quite a bit of stenciling in my early married years, this way of painting, in a more realistic way was more difficult for me, and I hadn’t tried anything more realistic in years. I am generally a staunch realist when it comes to my work, an observation that was painfully pointed out to me by my teacher at that one real painting class I took early in my marriage. So my little cabin’s book library provided me with pictures of real subject matter images of wildlife and nature with which to refer to in order to help me paint. As I learned and grew as a painter, I discovered a series of painting books by Lynn Wellford, starting with, "Painting Animals on Rocks".Her book was invaluable in teaching me the steps to do a realistic painting on a rock. My kids were also able to follow the step-by-step instructions to achieve amazing paintings of snakes, frogs, ladybugs, and other such projects. Between that book, and her subsequent books, such as, "Painting Flowers on Rocks"I was hooked.
I also picked up a small book on Spirit Stones, a native coastal reference book. These really basic shapes of images were of animals, fish and symbols were extremely easy for my children to interpret and paint onto rocks. Each painted rock project we labelled and/or dated on the reverse of the stone, and then we sprayed them with a clear Varathyne to preserve the images. On my cabin property, there are Spirit Stones on the paths, and railings, and we have a whole stone Rock Garden where the flowers are all painted on rocks. A whole new meaning to the term 'a rock garden'. Every year I try to add one or two more creations to my rock family. Another tradition I started was to give my children something different than a Birthday Card when we came here. I painted them a Birthday rock instead. If one of my two children is here on their Birthday, they get a unique rock that has some picture on it that symbolizes something that is relevant to them in that time of their life. So, Birthday rocks have been such things as cartoon characters, cars, video game characters, logos, hats, book interests, and graduation memories. We have seen Pokemon, a Mustang car, a Harry Potter book cover and Toy Bot Diary Character. Each rock has the child's Birthday number and the date of the Birthday. We have some pretty unique rocks. At the time of this writing piece I have just been doing another for my, now, 24-year-old son. This tradition will continue as long as I can do it. It is special and unique to my kids. You can make and start traditions such as these with your family, and these memories with last and be appreciated and enjoyed for years.
‘Today I revealed the Birthday Rock that I have just completed for my son’s current birthday. I can’t tell you in words what it feels like to see his huge smiles and that glow on his face as he holds it up and appreciates the rock I made especially for him. My heart bursts with love and gratitude in this very moment. This new rock is a simple thing, but clearly, so much more appreciated than a retail store paper Birthday Greeting Card. This special moment will last forever in my heart, and I hope, his, as I cherish this special family moment today with joy.’
Why don’t you enjoy the chance to do this fun and unique craft. It can be as simple as a Spirit Stone, or as intricately creative as something more realistic. Sometimes it totally starts as a random inspiration to paint. Find yourself guided by the direction of other artists and pictures or reference books, ‘whatever floats your boat’, sorry...old cliché. Even the basic shapes in a children's coloring book can be a good starting place as a reference.
Finding a good rock with your family, or even out wandering alone on a beach somewhere is therapeutic. Take your new rock friend home and recreate it with paint. Taking the time to mindfully live in the moment, and to be inspired and be creative to make something you will treasure is a wonderful way to spend some rich quality time together with family, or just simply, a peaceful time for you to enrich your life and have that quality ‘me-time’ with yourself.